Maltz Horn Ridge header

10th (Service) Battalion, the Royal Welsh Fusilers Lonely Trench on the Maltz Horn Ridge

18th and 19th August 1916

The 3rd Division was ordered to relieve the 55th Division in the line on the night of 14th/15th August 1916 and to attack and capture Lonely Trench, Cochrane Alley and the trench line running along the Hardecourt to Guillemont road. 76th Brigade was the right hand brigade and they had the job of tying in with the French who were on their right. On the evening of Monday, 14th August 1916 the 10 RWF headed back towards the front marching from Maricourt l'Abbe to Talus Bois south of Montauban and remained in the general vicinity of Montauban for the next three day as the 76th Brigade's reserve battalion.

At 05.40 hrs on Wednesday, 16th August 1916 the attack to capture Lonely Trench, Cochrane Alley and the trench line running along the Hardecourt to Guillemont road commenced. On the right 2 SUFF cleared Cochrane Alley down to its junction with Maltz Horn Ravine and also the trench along the Hardecourt to Guillemont road. 8 KINGS OWN and the 13th Battalion, the King's (Liverpool Regiment) [13 KINGS] from 9th Brigade attacked Lonely Trench. They were held up on the first attempt and a new stokes mortar barrage was ordered for a second attempt; the second attempt also failed to capture Lonely trench. 4 RF advanced in conjunction with the 7th Battalion, the East Surrey Regiment [7 E SURR] of the 72nd Brigade, 24th Division also failed to reach their objective; the strong point immediately south of the TrĂ´nes Wood to Guillemont track.

Maltz Horn Ridge August 1916

A trench map showing the location of Lonely Trench, Cochrane Alley and the trench line running along the Hardecourt to Guillemont road.

A conference was held at 3rd Division's headquarters just after midday on Thursday, 17th August 1916 and it was decided that Lonely Trench was to be attacked again during the night of the 17th/18th. The Brigade commanders of the 9th and 76th Brigades were to make the arrangements to carry this out. That afternoon orders were issued for two companies of 10 RWF from 76th Brigade in conjunction with two companies from the 12th (Service) Battalion, the West Yorkshire Regiment [12 W YORK] from 9th Brigade to attack Lonely Trench at 22.00 hrs that night.

French guides specially detailed to lead the two companies of 10 RWF forward had difficulty leading the way up the French communications trench and a heavy barrage caused further delays. Consequently 10 RWF arrived later than intended and the two companies moved into the frontline under the direction of the second-in-command of the 8 KINGS OWN. They were in position in time for the appointed zero hour but were later than planned. As they had been advancing the artillery preparation had been taking place with heavy howitzers bombarding Lonely Trench between 20.00 and 22.00 hrs.

At 21.50 hrs the two companies of the 10 RWF began to move forward to the tapes and were in position ready for zero hour by 21.57 hrs. Lieutenant Colonel Long who had accompanied them forward moved off to 12 W YORK's headquarters as his companies had moved forward. On arriving at 12 W YORK headquarters he found that the two companies of 12 W YORK were in the Assembly Trenches and not forward as planned. It appeared that they had gone forward but finding that 10 RWF were not on their right had been withdrawn. Lieutenant Colonel Long was thus informed that the attack had been delayed until 22.30 hrs. On informing Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Caesar Smythe, CO 12 W YORK, that the men of the 10 RWF had already gone forward CO 12 W YORK ordered his two companies to advance at once. This they did in the best possible formation from their Assembly Trench and not from their taped jumping off positions. Lieutenant Colonel Long subsequently moved back to the trench his two companies had so recently vacated and by the time he got back all that remained in the trench were the reserve Lewis gunners.

The attack went in as directed, but the men of the left hand company of 10 RWF were held back by German wire and bombers, stopping about 15 yards short of Lonely Trench. Lieutenant Colonel Long sent forward a platoon from the company of the 8 KINGS OWN that was supporting the attack, but reports came back that they could not go any further and that the trench had not been taken. On the right of 10 RWF sector the situation was obscure and it was not known if Lonely Trench had been entered. The situation in 12 W YORK's area on the left was not good. They had advanced from their irregular trench line and not the marked jumping off positions. In places there was 100 yards between their Assembly Trench and Lonely Trench. This resulted in the intended surprise of the attack not being achieved and they were met by intense machine gun and rifle fire. They too were stopped short of Lonely Trench.

Brigadier-General Kentish and Brigadier-General Porter conferred and decided that a further attack on Lonely trench should take place. Instructions were sent forward to Lieutenant Colonel Long to use the company of the 8 KINGS OWN and the company of the 2 SUFF to mount another attack against Lonely Trench in conjunction with Lieutenant Colonel Smythe's 12 W YORK. Lieutenant Colonel Long sent for the company commanders of the 8 KINGS OWN and 2 SUFF, explained the situation and provisionally set zero hour at 04.00 hrs. He then made his way to the headquarters of the 12 W YORK and conferred with Lieutenant Colonel Smythe. They each issued similar orders to the companies under their command to attack and capture Lonely Trench, and, with his orders issued, Lieutenant Colonel Long remained at 12 W YORK headquarters while the attack was in progress.

At 04.00 hrs the new attack was launched by the two companies of 12 W YORK and the company of 8 KINGS OWN and company of 2 SUFF. The German resistance was even stiffer than before and by 05.52 hrs it was apparent that this additional attack had also failed. The attacking troops withdrew back to the original line.

Shortly thereafter the commanding officer and company commanders of the 7th (Service) Battalion, the King's Shropshire Light Infantry [7 KSLI] from 8th Brigade arrived and were shown the trenches. Together the three COs arranged the position of 7 KSLI companies and the limits of the frontage and the objective Lonely Trench were pointed out. Meanwhile, the two remaining companies of 10 RWF had been brought forward by Major Samuel and when they arrived Lieutenant Colonel Long briefed the company commanders showing them the objective and the positions he wanted them to occupy. A warning order then arrived informing Lieutenant Colonel Long that the 3rd Division in conjunction with the 34th Division and the French 153rd Division would mount a further attack that afternoon. The objective for the 76th Brigade was the same as that they had already failed to capture and the two companies of 10 RWF and 7 KSLI would attack left and right respectively.

At 08.00 hrs the dispositions were as follows: 2 SUFF on the right, two companies of 10 RWF in the centre and the two companies of 8 KINGS OWN on the left. Two further companies of 8 KINGS OWN were in Casement Trench as a reserve. 1 GORDONS were moving up to relieve 2 SUFF and 7 KSLI was moving up from Talus Wood.

The bombardment of Lonely Trench for this next attack commenced at 09.00 hrs and continued through to 11.00 hrs. During the morning 1 GORDONS relieved 2 SUFF on the right of 10 RWF though two companies 2 SUFF remained in reserve in Cochrane Alley. 7 KSLI moved up to Edwards and Assembly Trench and the two companies of 8 KINGS OWN still in the trenches were withdrawn to join the rest of their Battalion in Casement Trench. Lieutenant Colonel George Standish Gage Craufurd, commanding 1 GORDONS, was placed in overall command for the attack. In the afternoon 1st Battalion, the Royal Scots Fusiliers [1 R SCOTS FUS] from the 8th Brigade was sent forward as an additional reserve battalion.

Following the artillery preparation the attack commended at 14.45 hrs with two companies of 1 GORDONS attacking on the right, the two companies 10 RWF on the left, with the French to the right of 1 GORDONS and 1 NORTH'N FUS on the left of 10 RWF. 1 GORDONS gained the objective on the right and immediatly began to consolidate. The French to their right also gained their objective. 10 RWF gained and held the southern portion of Lonely Trench and some of them supported by 7 KSLI swept onto their objective on the Hardecourt to Guillemont road. To the left of 10 RWF the 9th Brigade got held up and heavy casualties among the officers led to the few men that managed to get through to their objective withdrawing. The position in the 9th Brigade's portion of Lonely Trench was therefore obscure. Consequently the second bound that should have commenced at 16.45 hrs did not take place. Later that afternoon the Germans shelled the trenches for two hours making it difficult to get a clear picture of the situation as well as making it very difficult for them to consolidate.

9th Brigade was ordered to attack again and 10 RWF was ordered to cooperate where necessary. Two staff officers were sent forward from 76th Brigade to determine the situation in Lonely Trench and when they arrived it appeared as if the Germans were mounting a counterattack. Lieutenant Colonel Crauford sent one of the staff officers, Captain Hunt, to return to Brigade headquarters immediately and request reinforcements. At the same time reports started to come in that the French to the right of the 3rd Division were counterattacked and thus this matter appeared to be urgent. Lieutenant Saxon, the second staff officer, and Captain James 10 RWF went forward to reconnoitre and establish what the situation actually was whilst Captain Hunt returned to Brigade headquarters.

On receiving the news of the apparent enemy counterattack, 76th Brigade ordered two companies of the 1 R SCOTS FUS to move forward to support 1 GORDONS. This they did on the night of 19th/20th under the command of Captain Carston. Pioneers from 1/6th WELSH were also sent forward, but they achieved little.

At 03.45 hrs Lieutenant Saxon returned to 76th Brigade's headquarters and reported that the apparent counterattack had not taken place. 1 GORDONS and 7 KSLI were holding the positions they had captured and were consolidating on a front of about 450 yards. The situation on the left in Lonely Trench still remained obscure. Brigadier-General Kentish decided to go and assess the situation for himself and left his headquarters at 04.45 hrs on Saturday, 19th August 1916. Once at the front he ordered the company of 2 SUFF to withdraw from Cochrane Alley to Casement Trench and Lieutenant Colonel Long to withdraw his 10 RWF from the frontline to Chimpanzee Trench. The dispositions were now: 1 GORDONS, 7 KSLI and two companies of 1 R SCOTS FUS in the frontline, 8 KINGS OWN at Talus Boise, 2 SFF at Casement Trench and 10 RWF at Chimpanzee Trench.

Throughout the morning patrols were sent forward to try to ascertain the situation in Lonely Trench and conflicting reports came in. Eventually a report from Lieutenant Boucher 7 KSLI arrived at 76th Brigade's headquarters which stated that Lonely Trench was unoccupied and Brigadier-General Kentish issued orders for it to be occupied as soon as possible. Shortly thereafter he was informed that the 9th Brigade and 76th Brigade were to be relieved by the 104th Brigade, 35th Division.

At 16.45 hrs a message was received from GOC 3rd Division that the 76th Brigade was to clear and occupy Lonely Trench before being relieved and join this up to the new trench dug 300 yards to the south of the southern end. At 18.30 hrs Lonely Trench was occupied without any interference from the enemy.

During the night of 19th/20th August 1916 the 104th Brigade relieved the 76th Brigade and 10 RWF moved from Chimpanzee Trench to the transport lines above Minden Post. From there they moved to Happy Valley and then on Monday, 21st August 1916 they once again moved back into the rear area marching to Morlancourt.

During the fighting to capture Lonely Trench 10 RWF sustained 324 casualties: 4 officers were killed, one officer died of his wounds, 5 other officers were wounded and two were missing; 32 other ranks were killed, 197 wounded and 83 missing. The four officers killed were:

Second Lieutenant John Edwyn Hughes who is buried in Dive Copse British Cemetery, Sailly-Le-Sec in grave II. F. 36.

Second Lieutenant Ernest Dixon who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

Second Lieutenant Arthur Owen Williams who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

Second Lieutenant Lewis Williams who has no known grave and is remembered with honour on the Thiepval memorial to the Missing, Pier and Face 4 A.

The officer to die of his wounds was:

Captain Charles Albert Roy Follit DSO MM who is buried in Corbie Communal Cemetery Extension in plot 2, row B, grave 112. Captain Charles Follit died on 20th August 1916 and was just 19 years old.

Enquire About Your IN THE FOOTSTEPS Tour

Last updated: 17th December 2018